By the time Georgia O'Keeffe died in 1986, she had long since become the "grande dame" of American art. In part, she owed that distinction to her longevity and the elegant austerity of her physical presence. It also stemmed from her marriage to photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who had played such a central role in the advent of modernism in this country. Above all, though, she owed her ascendance to the quality of her own work. While embracing modernism early on, she was never a mere imitator of other avant-garde artists. Instead, her compositions, which drew much of their inspiration from the desert landscape around her home in New Mexico, were strictly her own, and she is widely recognized as one of the most original painters of her era.
George Inness, born Newburgh, NY 1825-died Bridge of Allan, Scotland 1894
oil on wood
17 7/8 x 24 in. (45.3 x 61.0 cm.)
Figure(s) in exterior
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans
George Inness was influenced by nineteenth-century French landscape painters, who emphasized quiet, intimate views of nature such as forest interiors or meadows. The clearing through the tall trees in this image invites us to join the group of figures, who are enjoying the shade of the forest. The rich colors and soft shapes evoke the muffled sounds created by a thick carpet of pine needles.
"Every thing in nature has something to say to us." George Inness, "A Painter on Painting," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February 1878, reprinted in Quick, George Inness, 1985
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist
In April 1999, Jesús Moroles brought the unfinished Georgia Stele to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He uncovered the sculpture and began to hammer stone chips off of the top, encouraging visitors to join in. Moroles then removed a few more and declared the piece finished, stating that if another chip were removed the sculpture would be a total loss and could never be repaired. This unexpected performance demonstrated Moroles's belief that sculptures are sacred objects that should belong to all people, and not just the artist or a museum. Nevertheless, he claimed creative ownership over the work by declaring that the work was done and could no longer be altered.